Cashew trees grow up to 14m and as small as 6m high where production is dominated by regions in India and Ivory Coast. The cashew shell and stem (apple) has several culinary and domestic uses as well. Cashew products are involved in the production of lubricants and paints. Cashew apples can also be made into a fermented sweet drink.
How to Cook with Cashews
Used in South Asian and Indian dishes, cashews feature as part of curry sauces or garnishing sweet or savoury meals. Roasted cinnamon cashews are a smooth spiced, buttery treat and super simple to make at home. The Indian curry Korma is based on a paste of ground cashews, spices and coconut milk (see below for recipe).
- 30% carbohydrates
- 44% fat
- 8% protein
- High in copper
- Vitamin B6
- Polyphenols - Flavonoids, Beta-sitosterol
A 28g serve of cashews gives 5.2g of protein & 13.1g of fat
Cashews are the highest-carb nut of all the nuts. They have a relatively high amount of monounsaturated fats and a decent amount of protein. Cashews are an extremely valuable plant-source of copper which is essential for various nervous system and immune system functions.
The Nutritional Importance of Copper
Copper is crucial for many different physiological processes. Copper is required for effective iron metabolism and red blood cell formation. Copper helps manufacture antioxidants in the body to reduce inflammation and tissue damage. Copper is required for the successful conversion of several neurotransmitters in the brain. of dopamine, norepinephrine and myelin in the brain and nervous system.
Cashews Have Antimicrobial & Healing Properties
Cashew nut shells have been used in traditional South American medicine for the treatment of many different ailments. These include skin infections, ulcerations and in Nigerian culture for cardiovascular disorders. Other historical therapeutic uses for cashews include treating fungal infections, balancing blood glucose and treating digestive issues.
Modern studies confirm the biochemical components in cashew products are antioxidative, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
An in vitro study from 2020 published in the journal, Frontiers in Endocrinology, demonstrated anti-cancer and wound-healing activities of cashew nut shell liquid.
Purified polyphenolic compounds within cashews including cardanol, anacardic acid and methylcardol stalled the growth and spread of cancerous cells according to the results. These cashew compounds also accelerated wound healing.
Further research confirms that cashew extracts demonstrate antioxidant and superoxide scavenging activity. Cashew compounds in this way can help protect against cellular DNA damage and oxidation.
Cashews Help Regulate Cholesterol Levels
Cashews are high in saturated fat, namely stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the health effects on cashews and blood lipids (cholesterol). This randomized crossover study observed a small group of men and women with high-normal cholesterol levels for 28 days.
The participants consumed a standard American diet and were supplemented with 28-64g of cashews per day to observe any beneficial effects. Cashew consumption caused a significantly greater median change from baseline in total cholesterol compared to the control group. Cashews successfully decreased total and LDL cholesterol in the study participants by the end of the 28 day study period.
Cashews Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms
Cashews are naturally high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are heart-healthy and cardioprotective. One 8-week study involving 50 diabetic patients who were randomly assigned to a control or cashew-supplemented group. The results showed that BMI, waist circumference and body weight were unchanged, however insulin levels and cholesterol levels were improved in the cashew group. The authors concluded that daily cashew consumption is beneficial for insulin regulation and cholesterol modulation.
How To Store Cashews
Due to their high amounts of unsaturated fats, cashews are best stored in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight. This will prevent the delicate fats from oxidising, turning cashews rancid. Rancid nuts are not only bitter in taste, they can be inflammatory in the body when consumed. For best results, store in the fridge and consume within 3 months.
Homemade Korma Curry Paste
- 15ml (1 tbsp) cumin seeds
- 15ml (1 tbsp) coriander seeds
- 10 cardamom pods, seeds only
- 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 5cm fresh ginger, peeled
- 30ml (2 tbsp) tomato paste
- 2 green chillies, washed and topped
- 60g cashew nuts
- 8 coriander sprigs
- 45ml (3 tbsp) desiccated coconut
- 15ml (1 tbsp) garam masala
- 5ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric
- Gently fry the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds in oil until fragrant
- Remove from heat and once cooled, place in a food processor along with all the other ingredients.
- Process until a relatively smooth paste is formed. Add water if needed to encourage the mixture.
- Store in a glass jar for later or make a curry as per usual, adding coconut cream to finish.
Darvish Damavandi, R., Mousavi, S. N., Shidfar, F., Mohammadi, V., Rajab, A., Hosseini, S., & Heshmati, J. (2019). Effects of Daily Consumption of Cashews on Oxidative Stress and Atherogenic Indices in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Controlled-Feeding Trial. International journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 17(1), e70744. https://doi.org/10.5812/ijem.70744
Gorrepati, K., Balasubramanian, S., & Chandra, P. (2015). Plant based butters. Journal of food science and technology, 52(7), 3965–3976. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-014-1572-7
Mah, E., Schulz, J. A., Kaden, V. N., Lawless, A. L., Rotor, J., Mantilla, L. B., & Liska, D. J. (2017). Cashew consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol: a randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 105(5), 1070–1078. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.150037
M Ashraf, S., & Rathinasamy, K. (2018). Antibacterial and anticancer activity of the purified cashew nut shell liquid: implications in cancer chemotherapy and wound healing. Natural product research, 32(23), 2856–2860. https://doi.org/10.1080/14786419.2017.1380022
Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Centre, Nuts. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/nuts, viewed November 30 2021
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Salehi, B., Gültekin-Özgüven, M., Kirkin, C., Özçelik, B., Morais-Braga, M., Carneiro, J., Bezerra, C. F., da Silva, T. G., Coutinho, H., Amina, B., Armstrong, L., Selamoglu, Z., Sevindik, M., Yousaf, Z., Sharifi-Rad, J., Muddathir, A. M., Devkota, H. P., Martorell, M., Jugran, A. K., Cho, W. C., … Martins, N. (2020). Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, and Anticancer Effects of Anacardium Plants: An Ethnopharmacological Perspective. Frontiers in endocrinology, 11, 295. https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2020.00295
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Wikipedia Contributors. (2021, November 30). Cashew. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew#Common_names, viewed November 30 2021